A map of Nigeria showing the linguistic groups.
A welcome, before a caveat emptor for any new visitor to this blog as most frequent visitors know I’m Yoruba whose roots and life run deep in the Southwestern part of the country. These things are important because no matter the pretense or even efforts at becoming a Nigerian, our country is NOT a nation and each tends to see himself/herself first as part of an ethnic group before being a reluctant citizen of Nigeria. That is the truth no matter the shallow and repeated mouthing of “unity of Nigeria is not negotiable”, “federal republic …”, “centre of unity” and other glib sayings.
I’m Ondo State by birth with part ancestry in Ekiti State and did not travel far before casting my lot with a guy from Osogbo in modern-day Osun State; these three belong to the group of six Yoruba states whose mother tongue, the Yoruba Language is one and the same and is spoken by all but with varying dialects. In the same region, there is also Edo State whose capital, Benin City, has been a trading post with the outside world, especially the Portuguese since the 15th Century. In political orientation and cultural affinity, the people of the state and the Yoruba have traditionally pitched their tents close.
For example, many people in central Ondo State – around Akure, including this blogger – have roots and partial roots in Edo, called Ado (distinct from Ado as in Ado-Ekiti), hence Ado-Akure. Many women in Akure area – they are almost all dead now – had the ethnic thin facial markings found on Edo women in the past.
Edo State is the seventh state in what was once the old Western Region which was under the Action Group party led by Obafemi Awolowo of very blessed memory; it was the most progressive part of Nigeria under the rule of a very progressive political and forward-looking party.
Today, the Action Congress of Nigeria, the ACN, rules in six of those seven states except Ondo and wants to add Ondo to its ranks but it has NOT done it the proper way but this essay cannot go into the histrionics that landed us here. Suffice to refer to the fact that I have written quite a few times, pleading that the leadership of the ACN reconsiders its route to a proper “integration of the Southwest”.
Below are two links that should show my feelings on the ACN/Labor Party war that has seen Ondo State a near theatre of war these last couple of weeks. Even though I expressed skepticism when the new IG took office in an essay, “Linked in or not, would media-savvy new IG … be a better Nigerian Chief Cop?” on January 28 this year, I believe he SEEMS to have risen to the challenge of maintaining peace in Ondo. And here I must express my pleasurable surprise at keeping his “boys” off the “lucrative” highways which has reduced travelling time by as much as 30 minutes from Ibadan to Akure these past several months.
Political campaigns are not generally pleasant but the one at Ondo have become very embarrassing with words I heard on accusations and counter accusations.
If crowds are indications of a party’s acceptance, please do not use the ones that have appeared at Ondo State rallies as indications. When the evil PDP, Nigeria’s ruling party that is a master rigger came to Akure last week, I was at my sister’s place or I would have missed seeing the television show as I do NOT get my Nigerian news from tv. There were hundreds of thousands of people decked out in uniform polo t-shirts while the top hierarchy of Nigeria, Inc. wore wild-print ankra.
Luckily for me, I generally head to wherever I have to travel in Nigeria early in the morning but just before Akure from Ibadan last Saturday, we saw what was an armada of police trucks as well as zillions of hired buses BUSING the hire-a-crowd from what must have been all states of the “federation”!
PDP STANDS NO CHANCE in today’s election for governor of Ondo State. Its rigged-in candidate who was there for about six years acted in true PDP form. Its “rescue” candidate today could only win IF Jonathan would not do as he claims about “free and fair” elections and is ready to have Olusola Oke – not remotely related to our late Professor Sola Oke – declared governor at Abuja like Dr. Segun Agagu, his predecessor.
Now, Action Congress’ Rotimi Akeredolu’s case is interesting. He’s had so much press via The Nation that people still asked me as late as yesterday – Friday – how I believe he cannot win. Simple: Mr. Akeredolu is a candidate who is not known enough in Ondo State to be accepted but more important, Ondo State indigenes want Segun Mimiko to continue the vast changes he has brought to the State.
When we arrived at Akure in September last year, most major roads were in various stages of disrepair. To get to St. David’s Church, Ijomu (where I was confirmed October 26, 1965 and which we attend when at Akure), your car would do dances of death and your inside, especially if you are no spring chicken, would cry, and I’m not kidding. Meanwhile, on the major old Bourdillon Road which I learnt at the time was now rightly christened Oba Adesida Road, you’d spend a lot of time to drive from the Alagbaka end to what we knew as Oke Igan – now New Garage.
Not anymore. There are access roads for taxis which, like most Nigerian taxis, have the bad habits of picking or dropping off fares right in the middle of roads.
The state has a modern city as its capital and other old provincial headquarters like Ondo, Owo and others are being spruced up. Smaller towns are also getting a bit of attention. At least in my small town, the drainage channels are better than what are at Ibadan and Osogbo, two places I’m familiar with in Oyo and Osun States. In the Southwest today, Akure ranks next to Lagos in new infrastructural development.
With the exception of ten weeks out of Nigeria and the occasional weekends out of Akure these past 13 months, we prepare to leave the state in another couple of weeks and the changes we’ve witnessed have been nothing but astounding. For information, most people, including my family in nearby Iju, did not know we’ve lived here for over a year, and were always pleasantly surprised whenever I made a family gathering. They had to know only two weeks ago today.
Of course there are tons of things that need attention but neither Akeredolu nor he of the pillaging party is looked on by Ondo State indigenes as offering a plan that can improve on what is being done by Mimiko right now.
The Action Congress Party leadership under Chief Akande and Asiwaju Tinubu must go back to the drawing board IF it is really serious about “integration” of the southwest. The name-calling and abusive language must stop and we must see each other as equal inheritors of Awo’s legacy. I’m sure Awo would approve of Segun Mimiko’s efforts at Ondo and it does not help for Chief Akande to label anyone who supports what is going on in the state as “political prostitute”. It’s not a way an old man – I’m old, too! – should end what was a sterling political career, especially his leadership at Osun where he worked wonders with very little resources.
Attempts to throw out Ondo State and claim a unified Yoruba-land is bound to fail and may be insincere. A way must be found by Action Congress’ leadership to integrate the whole of the Southwest with Ondo not just because as I once pointed out that it’s impossible to go to Edo without going through Ondo State for the planned railroad but because of Ondo’s natural resources which seem what everybody is eyeing.
This past year, I have always seized any opportunity to compare what may be superficial findings of mine to what those who really live at Ondo State think of the government and I must have spoken to hundreds of people. The last person I discussed with was just this past week when I asked her as she volunteered to show us where late Professor Oke’s wife lived as we were way off course.
“Mommy, so what’s going on with politics in our state?” I asked in Yoruba.
“Labor l’a ntele…” [We are with labor in Ondo State].
So, it’s Mimiko for Ondo today IF the so-called “federal” set-up government allows Ondo State indigenes to choose their leader. Who knows, it could be Akeredolu someday. Newspaper writers, especially the Nigerian variety, are not that known for objective writing even when not pushed by their proprietors.